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Saveur Blog Award winners announced

Funfetti cake

On Friday, Saveur magazine announced the winners of its sixth annual blog awards. I must admit that I hadn't heard of many of the blogs, but now I have even more sites on my "need to visit" list. The awards, which celebrate celebrate the best in food, drink, and design blogging, were broken down by category, with an editor's choice, a reader's choice, and four runners-up for each.

The Blog of the Year for 2015 was Molly Yeh's My Name Is Yeh. Recipes on Yeh's blog "draw inspiration from her Jewish and Chinese heritage, her '90s Chicago suburban upbringing, her years spent in New York, and her new Midwestern farm life." You may have seen photos of her homemade funfetti cake making the internet rounds.

Categories for this year's awards are: Best Baking and Desserts, Best Beer Coverage (, Best Spirits or Cocktail Coverage, Best Culinary Travel Blog, Most Delicious, Best-Designed, Home, Style & Design, Best New Voice, Best Photography, Best Special Interest, Best Use of Video, Best Wine Coverage, and Best Writing. The winner for Best Writing was Orangette, indexed on EYB. Visit indexed magazine Saveur for a complete list of winners.

Photo of How to make a funfetti cake from scratch from Food52 by Molly Yeh

The world's top 50 restaurants

Top cookbooks

Yesterday, San Pellegrino unveiled its ranking of the top 50 restaurants in the world. The big question was whether Noma would appear at the top of the list for a fifth year, but it fell to El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, which was named the best restaurant for 2015. Noma - the best restaurant for four out of the past five years - dropped to number three this year, with Italy's Osteria Francescana sitting just above it at number two. The restaurant in in the number five slot, New York's Eleven Madison Park, was the top-ranking North American restaurant on the list. The top-ranked Australian restaurant at number 32 was Attica, Ben Shewry's restaurant in Melbourne.  And Dinner by Heston Blumenthal took top honors for the UK at number seven.

Some big names fell out of the top 50 this year, most notably Daniel Boulud's flagship restaurant Daniel in NYC, which dropped all the way to 80. David Kinch's Manresa in Los Gatos, California, and Daniel Patterson's Coi in San Francisco also moved out of the top tier. Daniel Boulud will have to console himself over his drop in rank with winning the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award.

The top 50 restaurants are spread across the globe and have widely varying cuisines, but many of them do have one thing in common: cookbooks that are indexed on EYB. And if there were an award for publishing house with the most cookbooks from top restaurants, it would go to Phaidon, which features books from four of the top 10 restaurants: D.O.M. by Alex Atala, Mugaritz by Andoni Luiz Aduriz, Noma by Rene Redzepi, and Osteria Francescana by Massimo Bottura (all of which are indexed). Other current and former top 50 cookbooks from the Phaidon stable indexed on EYB include Fäviken by Magnus Nilsson, Peru: the Cookbook by Gastón Acurio (watch for a special promotion for Peru later this month), and Coi by Daniel Patterson.

If you want to learn more about these top restaurants and their chefs through these cookbooks, we have wonderful news for you: Phaidon is offering EYB Members a whopping 40% off all chef and cookery books from now until June 30.  Visit the Phaidon website for more details (and to fill your shopping cart.)

It's quite possible that we may see a few new cookbooks emerge from first-time entrants to the top 50 list. San Pellegrino has also ranked restaurants 51-100, and the EYB Library contains many books from those restaurants. The list below provides links to cookbooks in the EYB Library associated with the top 50 restaurants. Most of the cookbooks are indexed and several offer a few teaser recipes online to pique your interest. The numbers in parenthesis are the 2014 rankings for the restaurant.

1 (2)       El Celler de Can Roca / Joan and Jordi Roca, Girona, Spain
2 (3)       Osteria Francescana / Massimo Bottura, Modena, Italy
3 (1)       Noma / Rene Redzepi Copenhagen, Denmark
4            Central Restaurante, Lima, Peru (no cookbook)
5 (4)       Eleven Madison Park / Daniel Humm, New York City, USA
6 (6)       Mugaritz / Andoni Luis Aduriz, San Sebastián, Spain
7 (5)       Dinner by Heston Blumenthal / Ashley Palmer Watts, London, UK
8            Narisawa, Tokyo, Japan (no cookbook)
9 (7)       D.O.M. / Alex Atala. São Paolo, Brazil
10          Gaggan, Bangkok, Thailand (no cookbook)

12 (25)  L'Arpége / Alain Passard, Paris, France
14 (14)  Astrid y Gaston / Gastón Acurio, Lima, Peru
17  (8)   Arzak / Juan Mari Arzak, San Sebastián, Spain
18 (21)  Le Bernadin / Eric Ripert, New York City, USA
22 (13)  Nahm / David Thompson, Bangkok, Thailand
25 (19)  Fäviken / Magnus Nilsson, Järpen, Sweden
26  (9)   Alinea / Grant Achatz, Chicago, USA
31 (23)  Restaurant Frantzén  / Björn Frantzén, Stockholm, Sweden
32 (32)  Attica / Ben Shewry, Melbourne, Australia
36 (38)  L'Astrance / Pascal Barbot, Paris, France
40 (30)  Per Se / Thomas Keller, New York City, USA
45         Relae / Christian Puglisi, Copenhagen, Denmark
49         Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee / Paris, France
50 (41)  The French Laundry / Thomas Keller, Yountville, USA

A big name returns with a new cookbook

Anthony BourdainIt's been over a decade since Anthony Bourdain has written a cookbook. His last was 2004's Les Halles Cookbook. But that's about to change as HarperCollins imprint Ecco has signed Bourdain for a new cookbook titled Appetites, currently slated for a release in fall 2016. The book will be coauthored with Laurie Woolever. According to the publisher, the book will distill 40 years of "professional cooking and world traveling to a tight repertoire of personal favorites."

MamushkaOther cookbooks on the horizon include one from blogger professional chef and blogger Theresa Carle-Sanders. Her cookbook, Outlander Kitchen, which is not due out until summer 2016, is based on her blog of the same name. The book will feature historical and character-inspired recipes from Diana Gabaldon's bestselling Outlander series (the cookbook and series are both published by Bantam).

Arriving a bit sooner is Mamushka by Olia Hercules. Hercules formerly worked with Yotam Ottolenghi and was named the Rising Star of Food 2015 by the Observer in the U.K. Mamushka,  a celebration of the food and flavours of the "Wild East" - from the Black Sea to Baku and Armenia to Azerbaijan, arrives in October.

James Beard award winners announced

JBF 2015

Yesterday the James Beard Foundation announced the winners of its book, broadcast, and journalism awards. Sean Brock's Heritage continued its winning streak, taking honors in the American Cooking category. The hotly contested Baking and Dessert category, which featured three top authors, ended with Alice Medrich on top with Flavor Flours.

Our friends over at indexed blog The Kitchn took home the top prize in the General Cooking division with The Kitchn Cookbook. Again this year a relatively lesser-known book, Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition by David Sterling, was named Cookbook of the Year, and it also topped the International category. 

This year's inductee into the Cookbook Hall of Fame was Barbara Kafka, the author of IACP and James Beard award-winning books Roasting and Microwave Gourmet. Ms. Kafka is a former food editor of Vogue and a frequent contributor to The New York Times. In 2007, the James Beard Foundation also honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

View the complete list of 2015 JBF nominees and winners.

Renowned Chicago chef Homaro Cantu found dead

Innovative chef Homaro Cantu was found dead Tuesday afternoon on Chicago's Northwest Side, according to authorities. Police are investigating the death as apparent suicide by the 38-year-old chef and part owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Moto. 

Cantu was know for his avant-garde cuisine that feature edible menus and carbonated fruit, but he had ambtions that extended beyond being a renowned chef. Motivated by his family's homelessness when he was a child, "Cantu presented food and science as a way to solve the world's problems, particularly hunger."

The Miracle BerryHis former restaurant iNG and recently opened coffee shop Berrista prominently featured the miracle berry, a fruit that makes sour foods taste sweet. Cantu felt the fruit could eliminate the need for sugar and in 2013 he wrote a cookbook touting the miracle berry's benefits.

Cantu worked in acclaimed chef Charlie Trotter's kitchen for four years before becoming Moto's chef in 2004. He later became an owner of Moto, which has been honored with one Michelin star since the 2012 guide. After Trotter died in 2013, Cantu served on the board of the foundation established in the famed chef's name.

In March Cantu was sued by a former investor in Moto and iNG, Alexander Espalin, who claimed Cantu improperly used Moto's business bank account for personal use, including trips, meals and personal business. Espalin also alleged that Cantu was using profits from Moto to prop up other failing businesses. 

Great Australian Bake Off in the works

Maggie Beer & Matt MoranFoxtel has announced it has commissioned a new exclusive series of The Great Australian Bake Off, with culinary icon Maggie Beer and acclaimed chef Matt Moran to judge the Australian adaptation of the hit UK format. The show will follow the format of the hit BBC series, with a dozen home bakers vying to be crowned Australia's Best Home Baker.

The Great British Bake Off has been going strong since 2010, when the show debuted on BBC. It has spawned several spin-offs in locations as diverse as Denmark, Turkey, and Ukraine. The series has also resulted in a slew of cookbooks, written both by contestants and show hosts. You can find dozens of recipes from the books online through the EYB Library.

This version of the show will be judged by some of Australia's most well-known culinary stars including the self-taught Maggie Beer, who said she was excited about "working with the team at Foxtel for the very first time on this new series of THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BAKE OFF and of course the chance to work with Matt. Such a great chef and so giving of his knowledge, I'm really looking forward to seeing and tasting what we all come up with on the show."

With Beer and Moran on the team, it's probably fair to say at least one cookbook will emerge from the program. Production on the show will begin soon, and they're already looking for contestants. Amateur baking enthusiasts can register at www.australianbakeoff.com. 

James Beard Foundation announces cookbook nominees

Cookbook collage

Awards season is now in full swing as the James Beard Foundation announced its nominees for its 2015 book awards. As is usually the case, while there is some overlap with the IACP nominees, the lists diverge.

While Heritage was the big winner on the IACP list, no cookbook is nominated in more than one category for the JBF awards. Heritage  did make the list for American Cooking, but the other contenders (The New England Kitchen: Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes and Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State) do not appear on IACP's list.

The same holds true for the General category, as Saveur: The New Classics Cookbook is the only cookbook to be nominated by both organizations. The other JBF nominees in this category are The Kitchn Cookbook and Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home. The latter cookbook is highly rated by EYB Members.

One category contains two books that appear on both lists: baking. The matchup between heavyweights Baking Chez Moi and Flavor Flours occurs here too. The third contender in this battle is Della Fattoria Bread but the odds are not in that book's favor.

Other books of note nominated for a JBF award include My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry, andBitter by Jennifer McLagan. You can view the complete cookbook nominee list on EYB, and visit the James Beard Foundation site to see nominees for television, podcasts, and restaurants in addition to cookbooks.

Publication of The Whole Pantry cookbook halted

The Whole PantryFollowing Penguin Books Australia's announcement that it would be pulling Belle Gibson's The Whole Pantry from circulation, the book's U.S. publisher, Atria, has confirmed it will cancel the US release of the book due to questions about Gibson's story of beating cancer through healthy eating and natural remedies. "Our decision was made upon the failure of the author to provide clarification for numerous allegations concerning her biography and charitable endeavors," wrote Atria in a statement. The book was scheduled to go on sale April 14.

Gibson rocketed to fame based upon her inspirational cancer survival story and had built a social media empire including a wellness app. Doubts began to emerge about the truthfulness of her tale as some of her close friends have questioned her illness and her publisher admitted not verifying the story. Gibson claims to have been diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 20, but has been evasive about where she was treated and who diagnosed and treated her.

Gibson also faces scrutiny about solicitations she made from her fans for charitable contributions. Fairfax Media reports that Gibson hasn't turned over thousands of dollars promised to five charities, noting that "Gibson was unable to provide a list of organisations that have received money or say how much has been donated to date." 

The fate of Gibson's healthy living app is also in question. It has been pulled from Apple's Australian and US app stores, although the Android version appeared to be available as of Tuesday. Apple's promotion page for its new smart watch still lists Gibson's app as "coming soon," but it seems unlikely that the app will be made available.

No more secret recipe

recipe cards - top secret

As we've discussed previously, some people share their "secret" recipes but others like to hold on to them. Bakery owners have obvious reasons to fall into the latter camp. So you can imagine the dismay when a San Francisco-area baker discovered that someone broke into his bakery and stole his recipe binders.

Ry Stephen, a 28-year-old pastry chef, recently opened Mr Holmes Bakehouse. The shop has been open three months and is quite popular, with people waiting in line to buy his West Coast phenomenon, the cruffin (a riff of Dominique Ansel's cronut). Apparently cruffins are beyond delicious, as one night last week, a thief stole the recipe for the pastry, along with 230 other recipes, from binders stored in the bakery's kitchen. Nothing else in the store was taken: the thieves left behind money, baking equipment, an iPad and computers.

While Stephen is upset, he doesn't think that the thieves will be able to recreate the cruffin from the written recipe. He notes that not all of the steps are listed, nor is the source of the butter (however, the NY Times spilled the beans on the butter, which is imported from Isigny-sur-Mer, France). While Stephen trusts his employees and doesn't believes any of them is the culprit, he's not as sure about his competitors. "There is a spirit of learning among pastry chefs," he said. But, "there are always one or two who are trying to take everything and not give back," he said. "That part disappoints me."

This heist comes on the heels of the French Laundry burglary, where thieves made off with wine worth about $300,000 USD. (Most of the wine was later recovered.) Whether or not this robbery signals a trend, one thing is certain: it's good for business. Stephens' bakery was already busy, but now the lines for cruffins are even longer. "If someone stole it, it's got to be good," said Ashley Edwards, a restaurant manager who was waiting in line.

Grade inflation

pancakes with maple syrup

Last month, a USDA rule change went into effect with relatively little fanfare. The agency adopted rules that change how maple syrup is graded in the United States. Part of the reason for the change was to bring the US in line with international standards, but consumer preferences also played a significant role.

Consumers have been gravitating toward dark syrup, formerly known as Grade B, which connotated that it was inferior to Grade A. "We've seen a real interest in the dark, strongly flavored syrups using a system that downgraded that by calling it Grade B, just didn't make sense anymore," said Matt Gordon, executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association. Vermont adopted the new grading system a year before the USDA made it mandatory for all states.

Canada, which is the world's top producer of maple syrup, is still holding onto it's number 1 and 2 grading system. However, change is on the horizon there as well. The provinces of Quebec and Ontario are currently working through the process of changing to the international system, and Gordon believes "they're looking at probably a two year phase in for the new grades."

We found a link to a handy infographic that explains the new system. All retail grade maple syrup is now Grade A, but with descriptors for variations in color and strength. For example, what was formerly Grade A Light Amber is now Grade A Golden Color, Delicate Taste. The maple syrup formerly known as Grade B is now called Grade A Very Dark Color, Strong Taste. It seems a little fussy to me, but perhaps this will clear up any confusion over the quality of maple syrup variations. 

Photo of American style pancakes with bacon & maple syrup from Eat Like a Girl by Niamh Shields

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